September is a time for people to come together to share their stories and resources to help spread awareness in the hope of preventing another individual from taking their own life. This is also a time to spread hope and share vital information to people affected by suicide. This is why September is National Suicide prevention Month.
Who Does Suicide Affect?
Suicide affects all ages. In 2020, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34. According to the CDC, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with 45,979 deaths in 2020. This is about one death every 11 minutes. Firearms account for 50% of suicide and women attempt suicide three times more frequently than men; however, men are three times more likely to die by suicide.
Suicide is highly linked to mental health disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression and also affects individuals who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder or an eating disorder.
What Are Suicidal Warning Signs?
Warning signs that a loved one might be depressed or suicidal include:
● Frequently talking about self-harming behavior and suicide, or portraying themselves in a negative light
● Distancing themselves emotionally from loved ones
● A loss of interest in activities that once brought them joy, such as playing sports, participating in hobbies, and spending time with friends
● Unpredictable changes in eating or sleeping habits, often accompanied by neglecting personal hygiene
● Desperate attempts to regain lost friends, such as succumbing to peer pressure to engage in unhealthy habits such as drug use
● A decline in school or work performance
● Asking questions associated with death and/or suicide
● Giving away prized belongings
What Can We Do To Help?
When an individual is going through a hard time, sometimes it is hard for them to ask for help. The person struggling may be ashamed to ask for help, may not have a support system to be able to receive help or maybe too scared that finances could get in the way. As a family member, friend, coworker or loved one, it is imperative that we take our time to listen to individuals who are struggling and try to steer them in the right direction to receive professional help. Understanding the underlying reason these suicidal ideations are occurring, is essential to learn how to overcomes this particular struggle and develop healthy coping skills to combat and future setbacks.
How Can Social Workers Help?
Social Workers play an important role in preventing suicide by delivering universal, targeted, and individual prevention programs. Social workers need to use the best assessment tools for assessing suicide risk and receive continuous training on how to talk to patients about suicidal thoughts. Some say many clinicians are uncomfortable speaking to clients about suicide and warns this can drive away patients who need care most. In speaking to clients about suicidal thoughts Dr. Alonzo, a Professor at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service suggests clinicians:
● Create an accepting, safe, non-judgmental space for clients to disclose suicidal thoughts ● Maintain a transparent, neutral stance throughout the interview
● Consider the number and timing of questions
● Convey to the client that alternatives to suicide exist even though they may be hard to identify at this time
● Personalize treatment.
Remember, don’t be afraid to ask someone how they feel, if something is wrong or if you share with them that you have noticed they are not their usual self, listen without judgment.
If you or someone you know is going through a suicidal crisis, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Lifeline provides confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
You can also contact the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services provide 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
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